Charities do some really great work. UNICEF, Bread for the World, the Thurgood Marshal College Fund, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and many, many charities alleviate suffering and help struggling families in the United States and all over the world.
Unfortunately, there are a few people who set up charities as a scam where 90% or more of the money goes to the people who are running the charity instead of towards the cause.
One recent scandal involved the Breast Cancer Society and the Children’s Cancer Fund. The FTC sued the charities for raising $187 million dollars and only spending a mere two or three cents on the dollar to actually help cancer victims. The FTC said that the individuals running the charity spent the money for their own personal benefit, for things such as cars, trips and sports tickets. Here is a link to the NY Times article on the scandal: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/20/business/4-cancer-charities-accused-in-ftc-fraud-case.html?_r=0
Scam charities are doubly hurtful because the money is wasted and it discourages good people from giving. How can you tell the difference between a good charity and a bad charity? There are two websites that you can use to be sure a charity isn’t a scam. I recommend that you check both websites before deciding on where to give.
(1) List Of The 50 Worst Charities by Tampa Bay Times
The Center for Investigative Reporting and the Tampa Bay Times publishes a list of the 50 “Worst Charities.” They periodically update the list so the first thing you should do is check to be sure the charity you are giving to is not on the list: http://www.tampabay.com/americas-worst-charities/
(2) Charity Rating by Charity Navigator
There is a second website where you can check a charity’s rating out of a “four star rating system.” Charity Navigator bases their ratings on publicly available tax returns filed with the IRS and other information that evaluates the finances and accountability of the charities: http://www.charitynavigator.org/
Someone once said, “When we do any good to others, we do as much, or more good to ourselves.” I agree. Giving to charity – no matter how little – is important for the soul of the giver as well as the person in need.
I hope this consumer alert will help you give more wisely.
And, as always, if you know someone who is struggling with overdue debts, please have them call us for a bankruptcy consultation at 212-315-3755.